Friday night court evangelical roundup

Trump court evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Eric Metaxas and his guest entertain the idea that there is a relationship between a COVID-19 vaccine and the “mark of the beast” in the book of Revelation. His guest is this guy.

Today Donald Trump tried to protect Confederate monuments. Gary Bauer loves it:

Johnnie Moore, the guy who calls himself a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is doing his part for the Trump campaign. Ivanka will be pleased:

Robert Jeffress is on Lou Dobbs denying the fact that Trump’s numbers among evangelicals are dipping and Biden’s numbers are rising. He continues to repeat the false claim that Virginia governor Ralph Northam wants to kill babies after they are born.

But Jeffress can’t argue with the facts. He says that the dip in evangelical support for Trump is only temporary. Eventually white evangelicals will embrace the playbook and come back to their political savior. You can always tell when Jeffress is worried–he raises his voice, yells, and points at the camera. For Jeffress, the November election is between “anarchy” and “law and order.” Yes, Joe Biden, the “anarchy” candidate. 🙂

Watch:

It’s a big weekend at Jeffress’s church. This is the Sunday his congregation waves American flags and shoots off indoor fireworks as they sing praises to Baal the American god.

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is worried about Black liberation theology. Today on its Facebook page:

Intersectionality, liberation theology, white fragility, white privilege. We hear these terms a lot, but where do they come from? A lot of the Christians supporting movements like Black Lives Matter, the idea of white privilege, and identity politics, whether they know it or not, are paying homage to a heretical teaching known as Black Liberation Theology. Virgil Walker and Darrell Harrison offer some insight into this fundamentally corrupt theology and how it’s influencing and corroding the Christian analysis and response on the leftist lies being perpetuated today.

This is a classic white evangelical move. Instead of coming to grips with problems of race and the plight of African Americans, past and present, evangelicals try divert attention by warning their constituencies about false doctrine. This reminds me of my years at an evangelical college in the 1980s when my white classmates said that we should not take Martin Luther King Jr. seriously because he was theologically “liberal.” (I write this as an evangelical Christian who does not subscribe to liberation theology).

Charlie Kirk is defending his Liberty University colleague Jerry Falwell by sharing a pro-Falwell article published in the alt-Right Breitbart News:

Trump’s court evangelical journalist:

Until now.

Mainline Protestants for Trump

Bethel Lutheran Church ELCA, Willmar

When it comes to Christians supporting the Trump presidency, evangelicals get all the attention.  But as Chris Gehrz notes in his recent Anxious Bench post, mainline Protestants are not immune to Trump love.  I don’t know of any “court mainliners,” but it seems like a pro-Trump sentiment is alive and well among Lutherans.  Here is a taste:

Consider the largest Protestant denomination in my part of the country: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). At its annual meeting earlier this month, the ELCA not only passed statements condemning patriarchy and white supremacy, but made national news for declaring itself a “sanctuary church body.” Hundreds of delegates joined Lutheran activists in marching a mile to the Milwaukee office of the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where they held a prayer vigil and posted 9.5 theses on care for refugees and other immigrants. “We put the protest back in Protestant,” proclaimed some of the signs held by protestors. (And I don’t think they meant it like one of our blogging neighbors does.)

As religion reporter Emily McFarlan Miller had predicted, the 2019 ELCA assembly offered “a window into the issues important to many progressive Christians across the country.” But how many of the ELCA’s 3.5 million members are actually (politically) progressive?

Consider some of the numbers that political scientist Ryan Burge has been crunching from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), which surveys over 64,000 Americans every two years. Not only do 49% of ELCA respondents in the 2018 CCES identify as Republican (vs. 42% as Democrats), but even more approve of Donald Trump: 52% of those Lutherans, 35% strongly. When Burge drilled down to look at religious behavior, he found that ELCA support for Trump was strongest among those who attended church most often and weakest among those who show up just once or twice a year.

Read the entire piece here.

What is Going on at Riverside Church?

Riverside

Amy Butler recently resigned as pastor of New York City’s historic Riverside Church.

But why?

Was it because she was an outspoken on sexual harassment?  Here is a taste of Rick Rojas’s piece at The New York Times:

Dr. Butler’s supporters said she lost her job because she had spoken out about sexual harassment and she had complained in particular about an incident in which a former member of the church’s governing council left a bottle of wine and a T-shirt on her desk, both with labels that read “Sweet Bitch.”

They said she had pursued better treatment for women and minorities, with the aim of fixing a difficult environment that had led some church employees to complain and even quit. Her persistence strained an increasingly fractured relationship between her and the church’s lay leaders, her supporters said.

Was it because her leadership style was too progressive?  Again, here is Rojas:

…her opponents said her dismissal was being misconstrued, and pointed to the governing council’s significant misgivings about changes she made to the church staff and programming and spending priorities. Her philosophy and leadership style, they said, collided with a church whose culture remained deeply traditional, despite its politics.

Or did it have something to do with a strange visit to a Minneapolis sex shop.  Here is the New York Post (the article is also cited in Rojas’s piece in the Times):

The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the first woman to lead Manhattan’s famed Riverside Church, lost her lofty post amid complaints that she brought ministers and a congregant on a sex toy shopping spree and then gave one of them an unwanted vibrator as a birthday gift, The Post has learned.

On May 15, Butler allegedly took two Riverside assistant ministers and a female congregant to a sex shop in Minneapolis called the Smitten Kitten, during a religious conference, according to sources familiar with the out-of-town shopping excursion.

At the store, the pastor bought a $200 bunny-shaped blue vibrator called a Beaded Rabbit for one minister — a single mom of two who was celebrating her 40th birthday — as well as more pleasure gadgets for the congregant and herself, sources said.

The female minister didn’t want the sex toy, but accepted it because she was scared not to, sources said.

Butler also offered to buy a toy for the second minister — a gay man in a committed relationship — but he declined, sources said.

Read the rest here.

Did Missionaries Contribute to the Growth of Secularism?

Protestants AbroadOver at The Christian Century, Robert Westbrook of the University of Rochester reviews David Hollinger‘s latest book, Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America.

Here is a taste:

Protestants Abroad fits snugly within Hollinger’s long-standing narrative of the price that ecumenical Protestants paid as a religious community for their thinning of the particularism of Christianity. Clearly missionaries were prominent among the church leaders who got out ahead of the rank and file on controversial social and political matters and lost the loyalty of many of them. And the weight of Hollinger’s extensive biographical evidence is that they also pioneered the art of raising post-Protestant children who may well have admired their moral strength and shared their humanitarian values but found little need for their religious beliefs.

Hollinger himself remains impatient with those who persisted in “God-talk” long after he thinks it lost its plausibility, favoring post-Protestant “mish kids” over their still devout parents in this regard. But arguably, on his own evidence, there is something to be said, even if one does not speak it oneself, for God-talk or even Christ-talk. It may very well be that the tension between the universal and the particular was crushing for missionary theory, but was it so for missionary practice? There is little evidence in Hollinger’s book that this was the case.

Many of the numerous life stories in Hollinger’s books are tales of courage, courage that was for many of those who mustered it sustained by Christian belief, however thin it may have been. Civil rights activist and former missionary Ruth Harris was described by one of the students she inspired as “acting up for Christ”—not for humanity but for Christ. And the same might be said of many of those who gave us a more cosmopolitan republic. Could they have found the strength to act up elsewhere, outside the confines of Christian belief? Maybe, but in their Christianity was where they found it.

Thin God-talk is not necessarily weak God-talk; it can be wiry God-talk. God-talk lean, supple, and articulated alongside humility and doubt. Might one not cop to the considerable uncertainty that remains in even such wiry God-talk and despite doing so be moved by religious faith to do far more good than one might otherwise have done? The more cosmopolitan American republic that liberal Protestant missionaries did so much to create is of late under siege. If we are to protect it, perhaps a few courageous, die-hard ecumenical Christian survivalists will come in handy.

Read the entire review here.

The Author’s Corner with Paul Kemeny

9780190844394Paul Kemeny is Professor of Religion and Humanities at Grove City College. This interview is based on his new book, The New England Watch and Ward Society (Oxford University Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write The New England Watch and Ward Society?

PK: In reading William Hutchison’s The Modernist Impulse, I was struck by his fascinating chapter on how Fundamentalists like J. Gresham Machen and humanists H.L. Mencken shared some common critiques of liberal Protestants. I was already familiar with Machen’s criticisms but did not know much about Mencken’s. So I started reading everything I could get my hands on by Mencken Reading Mencken was enjoyable because he’s such a delightful writer. More importantly, I was far more captivated by Mencken’s critique of Protestant anti-vice activism than his theological criticisms of liberal Protestants. The question that intrigued me was this: why would New England’s leading liberals—Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Unitarians—formed a vice squad? This action certainly clashed with the popular image that liberal Protestants, especially in Boston, were progressive, urbane, and tolerant.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of The New England Watch and Ward Society?

PK: The New England Watch and Ward Society provides a new window into the history of American Protestantism during the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries. By seeking to suppress obscene literature, gambling, and prostitution, the moral reform organization embodied Protestants’ efforts to shape public morality in an increasing intellectually and culturally diverse society.

JF: Why do we need to read The New England Watch and Ward Society?

PK: I can offer three reasons. First, The New England Watch and Ward Society offers a panoramic historical review of mainline Protestant efforts to provide a unifying public morality for American public culture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While focusing on the Boston-based New England Watch and Ward Society, my book explores the larger mainline Protestant establishment’s efforts to shape public morality. It describes late nineteenth-century Victorian American values about what constituted “good literature,” sexual morality, and public duty and explains Protestants’ efforts to promote these values in a rapidly changing culture. I examine censorship of allegedly obscene material as well as efforts to suppress gambling and “white slavery” (prostitution).

Second, the work explains why the Watch and Ward Society collapsed in the 1920s. The Watch and Ward Society’s sudden and very public fall from grace offers a new perspective on why mainline Protestantism’s efforts to impose a common civic morality upon American culture failed. 

Third, the study draws upon a treasure trove of previously-unpublished archival and printed sources and tells a number of fascinating stories about the suppression of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and the sometimes nefarious tactics that publicly upstanding Protestant elites used to stamp out vice, such as planting eavesdropping devices in the Boston District Attorney’s office to gather evidence of his criminal activity.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian? (Or if you are not an American history, how did you get interested in the study of the past?)

PK: While I was in seminary, I grew interested in the history of America Protestantism during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. This interest gradually grew into a healthy obsession and after doing a Th.M. at Duke, I decided that I wanted to get a Ph.D in American religious history.

JF: What is your next project?

PK: I am currently in the throes of co-editing with my colleague Gary Scott Smith The Oxford Handbook of Presbyterians for Oxford University Press. We have assembled more than thirty-five scholars to contribute essays on Presbyterian history, theology, worship, ethics, politics, and education.

JF: Thanks, Paul!

Stetzer: Mainline Protestantism Has Just 23 Easters Left

Church for Sale

The headline is provocative, and observers have been forecasting the death of the Protestant mainline for decades, but Ed Stetzer‘s analysis is worth reading.

Mainline Protestantism has been attracting a lot of attention from historians of late. If current trends are any indication, these historians are not trying, as many of us do, to provide historical context for a thriving present-day movement.  Instead, they seem to be chronicling a religious movement that is dying.

Here is a taste of Stetzer piece at The Washington Post: <!–

Christians recently celebrated Easter, a Sunday where many churches are robust and full. But, if current trends continue, mainline Protestantism has about 23 Easters left.

The news of mainline Protestantism’s decline is hardly new. Yet the trend lines are showing a trajectory toward zero in both those who attend a mainline church regularly and those who identify with a mainline denomination 23 years from now.

While the sky isn’t falling, the floor is dropping out.

The trajectory, which has been a discussion among researchers for years, is partly related to demographics. Mainline Protestants, which has been the tradition of several U.S. presidents, aren’t “multiplying” with children as rapidly as evangelicals or others of differing faiths. And geography matters. Places where Protestants live are now in socio-economic decline, and parts of the country like the Sun Belt are become more evangelical with every passing winter.

Read the entire article here.

Marilynne Robinson: Christian, Liberal, Calvinist

I really enjoyed Robert Long’s piece in The American Conservative on Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson.  Not unlike the writings of cultural critics such as Wendell Berry or Christopher Lasch, Robinson’s work appeals to both liberals and conservatives.  Her respect for religious belief, tradition, rootedness, and duty tends to attract the attention of conservatives.  Yet she claims that she is a liberal Christian who grounds her faith in the teachings of John Calvin.

Here is a taste of Long’s article:

Calvin looms large in Robinson’s work: Gilead and its 2008 companion novel, Home, are surely the only bestsellers to hinge on a scene where a preacher ruminates about predestination. In her essays, Robinson presents Calvin as a Christian humanist—contrary to his stereotype as a cold-hearted theocrat—and his intellectual heirs as a vital corrective to our cheapened discourse.
As she tells TAC:
Something I find regrettable in contemporary Christianity is the degree to which it has abandoned its own heritage, in thought and art and literature. It was at the center of learning in the West for centuries—because it deserved to be. Now there seems to be actual hostility on the part of many Christians to what, historically, was called Christian thought, as if the whole point were to get a few things right and then stand pat. I believe very strongly that this world, these billions of companions on earth that we know are God’s images, are to be loved, not only in their sins, but especially in all that is wonderful about them. And as God is God of the living, that means we ought to be open to the wonderful in all generations. These are my reasons for writing about Christian figures of the past. At present there is much praying on street corners. There are many loud declarations of personal piety, which my reading of the Gospels forbids me to take at face value. The media are drawn by noise, so it is difficult to get a sense of the actual state of things in American religious culture.
Most Americans still call themselves Christians, but Robinson finds our politics afflicted by a debased and un-Christian view of ourselves. “We have forgotten that old American nonsense about alabaster cities, about building the stately mansions of the soul,” she writes in The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought. Instead, we “adopted this very small view of ourselves and others, as consumers and patients and members of interest groups.

Romney and Obama: Religion is Off Limits

Obama’s campaign says that they will not play the Mormon card.  Romney will not bring up Jeremiah Wright (despite what Axelrod says in the video below). Here is a taste from CNN:


Washington (CNN)– A political truce may be brewing between the Obama and Romney campaigns on the issue of the candidates’ faith and religious practice.  An all-out war over such issues nearly erupted last week, but neither campaign would take up arms.
The controversy began after word got out of a Republican Super PAC’s proposal to try to put a spotlight on President Barack Obama’s fiery former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., just like in 2008. But Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, slapped the effort down before it even got off the ground (and the Super PAC’s leaders insisted the Wright campaign was just one of several ideas).

“I repudiate that effort,” Romney told reporters on Thursday. “I think it’s the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectfully be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America.”

Romney’s lifelong membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seen by some as a major liability, especially among evangelical voters and voters who don’t know much about Mormonism.

After word of the proposed Wright campaign, Democratic pundits argued that if Obama’s old pastor was back on the table, Romney’s Mormonism should be, too, including the church’s checkered history on the issue of race.

Read the rest here. Let’s see how long this so-called “truce” lasts.

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